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Legal Obligations and Boundaries

Discuss the legal obligations a company and managers may hold in the following situation.

The setting is a company break room. Frank is a corporate sales supervisor known for "flirting" with female sale associates. Mary is a young female sales professional.

Frank- I see you finally landed the chairs r' us account, I bet that took a lot of "persuasion" on your end. I saw that you took Mr. Miller out to lunch five times this week. I bet he enjoyed "dessert".

Mary(puzzled)- Yes, I am very excited about the account. Mr Miller and I spent a great deal of time working out the sales contract.

Frank(walks closer to Mary) - I bet he is. Listen, I have to sign off on your expense report for these lunch meetings. I think it will be a good idea if we discuss this over dinner tonight. I mean...I just want to make sure everything is legitimate for the big bosses, you know. I mean...I wouldn't want you to get in trouble or anything.

Mary(begins to feel apprehensive)- I really think it will be better if I just meet you tomorrow at the office. I have an open hour at 10 am tomorrow, is that all right?

Frank(walks even closer to Mary)- I really think it is in your best interest to meet with my tonight for dinner. You might get in trouble on this expense account, and if you want me to sign off....you are going to have to give me a reason...you know what I mean?

Mary refuses Frank's advances by walking away and immediately contacts human resources.

At this point, describe what happened to Mary. Describe the legal boundaries that Frank's actions crossed and develop a course of action to correct this work environment as you see best. Use your knowledge gained within this scenario. did Frank abuse his position of power, authority, and trust as a supervisor? Additionally, discuss federal laws, agencies, and protections pertinent to this situation.

Solution Preview

Hi,

Let's take a closer look at each question, which you can then draw on for your final copy.

CASE SCENARIO:

The setting is a company break room. Frank is a corporate sales supervisor known for "flirting" with female sale associates. Mary is a young female sales professional.

Frank- I see you finally landed the chairs r' us account, I bet that took a lot of "persuasion" on your end. I saw that you took Mr. Miller out to lunch five times this week. I bet he enjoyed "dessert".

Mary(puzzled)- Yes, I am very excited about the account. Mr Miller and I spent a great deal of time working out the sales contract.

Frank(walks closer to Mary) - I bet he is. Listen, I have to sign off on your expense report for these lunch meetings. I think it will be a good idea if we discuss this over dinner tonight. I mean...I just want to make sure everything is legitimate for the big bosses, you know. I mean...I wouldn't want you to get in trouble or anything.

Mary(begins to feel apprehensive)- I really think it will be better if I just meet you tomorrow at the office. I have an open hour at 10 am tomorrow, is that all right?

Frank(walks even closer to Mary)- I really think it is in your best interest to meet with my tonight for dinner. You might get in trouble on this expense account, and if you want me to sign off....you are going to have to give me a reason...you know what I mean?

1. Mary refuses Frank's advances by walking away and immediately contacts human resources. At this point, describe what happened to Mary.

Mary refuses Frank's advances. After Mary speaks to the Frank, the harasser, it is often recommended that she speak to her supervisor (who is Frank in this case) or sexual harassment point person (HR), which Mary does. She would make a formal complaint to the HR person explaining the details of what happened between her and Frank. When an employee complains that he or she is experiencing sexual harassment of any type, the employer has a legal, ethical, and employee relations obligation to thoroughly investigate the charges (http://humanresources.about.com/cs/workrelationships/ht/sexualharass.htm).

According to Heathfield (n.d.), the organization should take the following (or similar) steps:

1. Before a complaint is filed, make sure you have posted and informed all employees of your organization's policy relative to sexual harassment. It won't be tolerated; it will be investigated.
2. Assign a staff member to "own" the complaint. This individual should be knowledgeable about the organization, the people in the organization, and the history of the organization.
3. Map out a plan that covers the important people and situations to investigate in the initial complaint. Basically, plan the investigation, based on current knowledge.
4. Talk with the employee who is complaining. Guarantee to the employee that he or she is safe from retaliation and took appropriate action in reporting the incident or general situation.
5. Inform the employee that you need to know immediately about any retaliation, purported retaliation, or ongoing harassment the employee ...

Solution Summary

Relating to the case scenario, this solution describes what happened to Mary, the legal boundaries and laws that Frank's actions crossed and whether Frank abused his position of power, authority, and trust as a supervisor. A suggested course of action is also recommended.

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